How IBM Drives DevOps Into the Cloud

Improve software delivery and you improve the business bottom line

Cloud & smarter Infrastructure Weekly. An IBM service management perspective.Why is DevOps so hot these days? Increasingly, software-driven innovation is seen as the royal road to business success. The faster, more cost-effectively, and more consistently organizations can fulfill customer demand and address emerging market interests with new services, the better the outcome they are likely to get.

Furthermore, this idea applies not just to traditional Web services (such as online banking or e-commerce) but almost any service or product that leverages software to create value. Consider:

One can also see the growing significance of DevOps as arising from a "perfect storm" in which several market factors jointly encourage better software, delivered more rapidly.

For example, customers today have more power to influence business strategies than ever before; satisfying those customers more quickly has in turn become more critical. Government regulations increasingly specify how services should operate; achieving compliance often means modifying code and deploying new builds. And as mobile, cloud, big data, and social networking continue to gain momentum, getting the best return on investment in them implies new application complexity as well. Managing that complexity will often involve rethinking every phase of the software lifecycle.

DevOps concepts, implemented skillfully, can empower organizations to obtain much more business value from virtually any software they create—lower costs, reduced risks, and higher market share and revenues.

How? The strategy should reduce or eliminate many of the delays historically associated with software development and deployment, which have often resulted in new build cycles of a year or more.

Instead, continuous delivery, involving far faster application deployment cycles and ongoing monitoring of service quality, should be the goal.

Continuous delivery helps tame historical delivery challenges

DevOps concepts, implemented skillfully, can empower organizations to obtain much more business value from virtually any software they create—lower costs, reduced risks, and higher market share and revenues.

Let's consider some of the specific problems organizations usually face in the absence of optimized DevOps.

First, because so many of the processes involved in software delivery are manual, they're also relatively slow, costly, and inconsistent. According to Forrester, some 44% of organizations need a week or more just to roll out a new build based on changing a single line of code; more extensive modifications could easily require four to six weeks. Delays of this type cripple business agility, and make organizations less competitive in a market that gets more challenging by the day.

Second, even when a new build exists, deployment into test or production systems is much slower than it ought to be. This is largely unnecessary, since such deployment can be (and ought to be) executed automatically, as driven by predefined policies based on proven industry best practices.

Third, application upgrades are sometimes de facto downgrades—because the new code isn't as well suited to the production environment or user requirements as it should be. In this scenario, the new version must be removed, the old version reinstalled, and the code reassessed by the development team so that a fix can be implemented. All the time required for the fix is time in which the new application version isn't creating any value, and customers aren't as satisfied as they might be. Minimizing the business impact of this situation is one of the most fundamental and important goals of continuous delivery.

These and other related issues explain why in recent years, IBM has increasingly focused on helping organizations create and deliver better software-driven services. And as one of the world's leading providers of both IT development and IT operations solutions, IBM is also extremely well positioned to make that happen.

Today, IBM offers a blueprint for continuous delivery of software-driven innovation—one that spans the complete application lifecycle, and substantially accelerates it, while also reducing business risks, costs, and complexity of many kinds. Based on open standards, this blueprint maximizes customer choice, and prevents vendor lock-in; furthermore, it's a powerful platform for taking full advantage of new technologies and architectures including cloud, Big Data, and mobile.

And, of course, toward implementing the blueprint, IBM also offers a full range of integrated management solutions. These span both the IBM Rational software development portfolio (recently augmented by the April acquisition of Urbancode) and the IBM Cloud and Smarter Infrastructure portfolio (particularly IBM SmartCloud offerings). Together, they comprise a foundation on top of which virtually any software-driven service can be created, deployed, and managed more quickly, more easily, and more cost-effectively than ever before.

IBM Cloud and Smarter Infrastructure solutions can accelerate rollout and enhance service management

How do IBM offerings combine to yield continuous delivery? Essentially, in three ways.

To begin with, they improve service quality by monitoring application performance in the production environment (such as a cloud). These capabilities are provided by solutions such as IBM SmartCloud Application Performance Management, which provides five different forms of analytics-driven insight into application uptime and performance—all of which help organizations stay continually aware of how well applications are performing against business goals. If a given application will soon need more storage, for instance, analytics will rapidly detect that fact, and the storage can be allocated in proportion to the need. The service will then perform better, and customers will receive the experience they're expecting.

IBM's DevOps solutions also help manage customer expectations when problems do occur. If users report issues, that critical information is logged in IBM SmartCloud Control Desk, which includes both traditional trouble-ticket desk and service catalog capabilities. And should the reported issues require a code change, that information is in turn relayed (through DevOps integration) to the development team (using IBM Rational Team Concert and new technology acquired from UrbanCode). The development team can then implement the necessary fix quickly and with significantly improved insight into the specifics of the production environment (such as virtual server operation system versions, Java versions, and other information). This not only accelerates time-to-resolve, but increases the probability that the new version will be well suited to production servers.

Finally, overall software delivery is substantially accelerated in a more general sense as well, thanks to cloud-based, policy-driven execution of core tasks such as virtual server creation and provisioning. These tasks, performed by IBM SmartCloud Orchestrator, comprise the heart of how cloud-based services are created and scaled. And because each task is so common, acceleration of them (via automation) has a tremendous effect on the overall speed of software delivery. Automation also means that best practices will be carried out in each and every case, substantially reducing costs and yielding higher overall service quality.

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